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‘Kingsman: The Secret Service:’ Firth Thing’s Firth

Kingsman: The Secret Service is exactly the movie you need right now. Trade in those reluctantly bought Fifty Shades tickets and take your book club to see Kingsman instead. Yes, it’s a British spy movie. Yes, it’s a comic book movie. But it’s also a slapstick comedy. And it’s full of actual, fleshed-out characters that you care about enough that two hours and nine minutes doesn’t seem that long at all.

Colin Firth is a Kingsman, part of a secret, underground, super classy spy organization, run (obviously) by Michael Caine. When a mission goes wrong and they’re down a spy, each Kingsman is tasked with recruiting one young hopeful he believes has what it takes to be a suave, suited member of the elite organization. The recruits are put through harrowing training levels that include off-the-wall dangerous situations that are ridiculously unrealistic and breathtakingly suspenseful all at the same time. The trainees are systematically eliminated, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory style, for not following directions properly (or you know, getting “killed”).

Kingsman

Firth’s recruit is Eggsy (Taron Egerton), the son of a former Kingsman who sacrificed himself in the line of duty when Eggsy was just a little boy. Eggsy isn’t quite as posh as the other recruits. He’s got a mum and a baby sister who have perpetually tear-streaked faces due to a nasty, physically abusive step-father, and he lives in a small apartment with them. But, his time getting into trouble on the streets has made him a talented pickpocket and parkour artist. In short, he shows great potential for the badassery a Kingsman must produce on the reg.

While the recruits are being trained, we learn that famous billionaire, Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson, with a sideways cap and a lisp like no other) has a nasty plot up his sleeve that will wipe out a great deal of the world’s population under the tenuous justification of extremist environmentalism.

Kingsman

Jackson is great fun — his villainy is riotous and full of dirty money. Colin Firth is his usual, polite self, though here, he tends a bit more toward gory violence than say, his role in Bridget Jones’ Diary. Taron Egerton is a real standout — his charm isn’t manufactured. His immediate ease onscreen with the likes of Michael Caine, Colin Firth, Samuel L. Jackson, and Mark Strong is extremely refreshing.

The action is comic bookish, occasionally overwhelmed by camerawork but ultimately paced well. The gore is so incredibly fun, as is the gadgetry and weaponry. Kingsman outwardly sends up the James Bond spy movie genre as well as the Trading Places/My Fair Lady switcheroo premise, but it’s less of a parody than an homage. It fits equally well in each of these genres while simultaneously calling out and celebrating their conventions (kind of like how The Princess Bride is both a successful romantic fantasy story and a successful parody of one). Maybe there were one or two lines that were a little eye-rollingly obvious as far as sticking it to the genre, but overall, it is a masterful balance —hilarious, gripping, and entertaining to the end.

Grade: A-

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